Sleeper Agent

With new spy drama The Americans, FX again shows it's unafraid to take risks to make quality TV

And while Rhys is uncanny in The Americans, slipping in and out of his various disguises like some sort of caviar-devouring chameleon, he’d probably make a lousy real-life spy. For one thing, he’s a terrible liar.

“You know, I’m actually not from the U.K. I’m from Indianapolis, but I’m just pretending to be a British actor so I can get work here,” he jokes, before heading back to the set. The hint of Welsh in his voice gives him away.

Он не хочет говорить об этом...

Much as Landgraf et al would rather avoid talking about Homeland—after all, Weisberg’s pilot script was in the works long before Showtime premiered its paranoid valentine to espionage—the success of the premium-cable series could work in FX’s favor.

Homeland is one of those shows that everyone always talks about, but you can’t really put any dollars into it,” says one national TV buyer. “The Americans looks like a pretty impressive alternative, and for clients that gravitate toward the FX brand, this is a show that should draw a much more balanced male-female mix.”

While Landgraf cautions that it may take a number of weeks before The Americans settles in, there’s no question the Wednesday 10 p.m. slot is ripe for the picking. NBC’s freshman drama Chicago Fire is averaging a meager 1.8 in the 18-49 demo while ABC’s Nashville is doing a 2.0. And while CSI remains a formidable reach vehicle on CBS, its median age (56 years) is a bit longer in the tooth than the mid-40s crowd expected to sample The Americans.

And then there’s the matter of unit cost. Per buyer estimates, the cheapest 30-second spot in the time slot is Chicago Fire, as clients who invested in the show during the upfront spent an average $60,000 a pop. With an asking price in the low $50,000 range, The Americans could be a hell of a bargain.

Landgraf declined to predict the ratings, saying only that he hopes viewers find The Americans to be “an exciting, suspenseful show and a smart, emotionally fulfilling show.” He believes the show will draw a solid complement of husband-and-wife viewers.

Having lived through the weird media freak out over Felicity’s haircut, Russell is even more pragmatic. “Look, you never know. It has a lot of potential, and I’m really excited about the show,” she says. “I mean, it has a lot of things going for it…we’ll see.” 

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